The events of the last two weeks have further revealed a sobering reality. Despite how far we've come, we have not figured out how to make this place work. The Northern Ireland Protocol is just another outworking of a deeper issue and it joins a long list from over the years.
Making a divided society, such as our own, work requires more than treaties, agreements and institutions: it needs a bank of trust and goodwill, accumulated and nurtured over time, that enables different communities to overcome the inevitable bumps in the road without questioning each other's motives. Sound familiar?
In our case, the answer is - and has always been - staring us in the face. Our constitutional position will not change until we decide that it should. Commitment to that very basic principle of self-determination should be enough to allow us to get on and address the challenges immediately in front of us. But, alas, we are where we are.
The problem with some current discussions on a "New Ireland" is that they seem to have forgotten, or deliberately ignored, a basic reality. Regardless of the overall constitutional status of Northern Ireland, or the north of Ireland, or whatever you want to call it, it still has to work. Simply changing the meeting room in which you're discussing a problem does not, in and of itself, solve that problem.
This is where some nationalists strategists have watched the film Michael Collins a few too many times to see the wood for the trees.
Even if there is a discussion which leads to a border poll, which, as a nationalist I hope there is, it clearly will not be this great reversal of partition and dismantling of the British state in Ireland.
Leaving aside the morality of such an approach - and what it would mean for community relations - it's also strategically folly.
Over 50% of people living here define themselves primarily as Northern Ireland. Fewer and fewer people are identifying as either Irish or British.
The truth is that, as it stands, the numbers required to win a border poll simply are not there, but the people who will be instrumental to success are those who are very comfortable being Northern Irish.
The reality is that to win these people over, nationalism will eventually need to get to the position where it admits to itself that the concept of Northern Ireland, or Northern Irishness, will have to exist on the far side of Irish unity.
At the end of it all, we would probably end up with something similar to what we have now - a Good Friday Agreement, but in reverse.
Stormont will still exist with devolution from Dublin, there will be east-west and north-south bodies and the British Government will still have some involvement, albeit greatly reduced.
Some people within nationalism are perfectly comfortable with - and, in fact, embrace - this approach, because it recognises the need to make this place work regardless of its constitutional position and provides a clear path for doing just that. But this is definitely a minority viewpoint as it stands.
But even if some nationalist leaders do not want to acknowledge that Northern Irishness - and dare I say Britishness - should and will continue to exist in some way on the far side of a border poll, they should at least recognise that it is in their strategic advantage to do so.
Not only will it be critical to actually winning a referendum here in terms of the electoral sums, but it is likely the position they'll end up in anyway. So why not own it now?
It may also get nationalism over an additional hurdle. At the moment, many interpret their efforts to "have the discussion" as speaking out of both sides of their mouths.
Yes, they want to talk to you about the future of these islands, but they already have an outcome of that conversation in mind.
Explicitly acknowledging the role and presence of Northern Irishness and the need to make this place work might just demonstrate that nationalists are open to a wider range of outcomes, which, in turn, might mean more people will be open to engaging with it.
For a party like the SDLP, which struggles with more than a whisper of this, there is a further opportunity. As well as being seen to offer a more mature and pragmatic approach to the constitutional conversation, publicly endorsing and, indeed, championing Northern Irishness within a new constitutional set-up could also help it address the haemorrhaging of its voters to the Alliance Party.
It could be seen as an attractive proposition to middle-ground voters, while maintaining its integrity on the constitutional question.
At the end of it all, does our position in the Union, or a United Ireland, really matter when we can't work together to address the fact that one in four of our children in the north, or the north of Ireland, or Northern Ireland, live in absolute poverty?
That's the question we should all be asking ourselves in the mirror.
Gareth Brown is a political commentator and a former Stormont and Cabinet Office adviser